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Shrubs seem to be all the rage this year. Ever since the guys at Mighty Fine Things showed me how delicious a slug of raspberry vinegar was mixed with soda water for a bright, refreshing drink at the Wealden Literary Festival, I’ve been obsessively adding fruit vinegars to my drinks on hot days, or when I fancy something that is ‘not water’.
At first I started experimenting with whatever fruit vinegars I could get my hands on. Mighty Fine Thing’s beautiful Faversham Raspberry Vinegar never made it into dressings or my cooking – I drunk the whole bottle, but I found that fruit vinegars with a balsamic base tended to taste a little muddy.
On a trip to York for a friends wedding a few weeks later I stumbled across the Il Gusto store. In my head I remembered them as the people who sold that awful pearlescent sparkling wine, but it turns out that they also sell a range of pretty amazing fruit vinegars you can decant into bottles in store. I picked up a strawberry balsamic and a pineapple white balsamic as they tasted the best on my exploration of the jars, and it was there I found my fruit shrub hero. Pineapple balsamic vinegar is the bomb – bright, refreshing and just that little bit different.
As homemade shrubs have seem to have gone a bit more mainstream (and judging by the Christmas press previews this summer, bottled versions from lots of new brands and producers will be all the non-alcoholic rage this upcoming festive season) I figured I’d have a go with a glut of nectarines I got really cheap at the market. Clearing out the cupboards in preparation for moving house I went with brown sugar and white balsamic vinegar (now sold as ‘white condiment’ in the British supermarket, I bet there is some odd EU regulation going on there!) as they were what I had. It was a bit caramel-y from the brown sugar, but it worked, it was tasty, and I polished it off with lots of sparkling water and ice as I packed boxes.
With this success under my belt, once I was properly settled into my new kitchen and the surfaces were finally free from boxes I set about creating my own pineapple white balsamic vinegar shrub, because, why not? It is literally my job to spend all day sitting in my kitchen coming up with new recipes, and I was getting through an awful lot of pricy vinegar.
The result came in as pretty much identical as my store brought pineapple vinegar, perfect poured over ice and topped up with sparkling water. I’ve included the recipe to make what is roughly a 250ml bottle of shrub – if the bottle will be totally full or not will depend on how juicy your pineapple is! Keep it in the fridge. Most things I’ve read tend to advice drinking it within a week, but vinegar is a preservative, after all, and I’ve never had to throw out any shrub because I’ve not finished it quickly enough.
This easy method yields a delicious pineapple and white balsamic vinegar shrub, delicious in cocktails or simply to add to a glass of icy sparkling water as a homemade soda syrup.
150g (5 oz) Fresh Pineapple
150g (5 oz) White Caster Sugar
100ml (5 1/2 tbsp) White Balsamic Vinegar (sometimes sold as white condiment)
Chop the pineapple into small pieces. Stir together with the sugar and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside, at room temperature for two days to macerate, stirring occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved.
Drain away the pineapple and transfer the shrub into a sterilised bottle and store in the fridge.
I don’t cover my shrub on the countertop, but if you have a fruit fly problem, a piece of cheesecloth or muslin should suffice, secured with a rubber band around the rim of your bowl.
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